From 2004, the Liberation War Museum of Bangladesh started a nation-wide programme where school-going children asked their families and neighbours about their memories from 1971 and wrote them down. Through this initiative, the Museum has been able to collect over 51,000 testimonies from the 64 districts of Bangladesh. This year, we bring to you some snippets of the oral history that the Museum is painstakingly continuing to collect and preserve through the programme ‘NotunProjonmokeMuktijuddherChetonayUdbuddhokoron” (Inspiring the new generation through the spirit of the Liberation War)
He raised me after my family died
I was nine years old when the war started. I came home from school, in Badarganj, Rangpur, and saw my father saying goodbye to his mother with a gun beside him. When I asked him where he was going, he only said “to war.” My first reaction was – what is war? My grandmother explained that we were fighting Pakistan for an independent Bangladesh, so I hurriedly told Baba - “you must go to war then so we can be free soon and you come back!” I never saw him again.
A few days after Baba left, I was sitting in our house’s courtyard. Suddenly, I saw a lot of people shouting and walking down the path right in front of it. I yelled out to my mother, and she came out with my grandmother and uncle and found that the people were leaving the village. They were all going on the road to India. A few people from the crowd were begging for water and almost fainting. My mother ran inside and brought water and some puffed rice for them.
A few days later, the Pakistanis came to our village at dawn in their jeeps. They killed a lot of people. My mother hid me behind a cupboard in the house. From my hiding place, I saw them take my mother, grandmother and uncle and line them up in our courtyard. Then they shot them. When the bullets hit my grandmother, she screamed “Babu!” My name is Hefazzudin Sarkar, but they used to call me Babu. I heard her call out to me, but I didn’t come out. If I had, maybe they would have killed me too.
The military smashed a few things in my house and left. I came out to their dead bodies and burst into tears. My neighbour, the 40 year old Neel Mamun, came and comforted me, and took me to his house. He was also hiding from the Pakistanis and escaped. He raised me after that.
Who knows how many people lost their families like I did.
Collected by FatemaTuz Zohra
Badarganj Model Bohumukhi High School
The farmers helped them escape
My grandfather Md Solaiman is now 63 years old. He told me this story from the war. During the Liberation War, some freedom fighters took shelter in the Shonapur Tuku Bakshi Mosque in Noakhali. Somehow, the military learned of their presence and were preparing to attack. When they realised this, the freedom fighters tried to escape towards the south on the Char Jabbar road. The military picked up their trail.
With nowhere to go, the freedom fighters asked the farmers working in the paddy fields next to the road to help them. My grandfather Solaiman was one of those farmers. He took their weapons and hid them in the hay stacked up on the aisles, and the freedom fighters also started to work the land with them. The Pakistanis arrived very soon after that and started to question them.
The farmers told them that the freedom fighters had ran towards the south, and the military believed their story and went after them. Once they left, the farmers helped them retrieve their weapons and took them to a safe place. One of those freedom fighters was a man named Abu Sufian. He is still alive today because of the quick thinking of that group of simple farmers.
Kalitara Muslim Girls’ Academy
I had a beloved little sister
My grandfather Abdul Kuddus Maulana (74) is a freedom fighter. Everyone knows him as Kuddus Master, in our village of Bhatiapara in Gopalganj. When Dada (grandfather) speaks of the war, and how the Pakistani army pounced on the village and what they did to its people (there is a killing ground just east of the Bhatiapara rail station), the tears still roll down from his eyes.
But it hurts him the most to talk about his little sister. Her name was Tahmina. One night, the Pakistani army suddenly appeared and took her away. You all know what they did to her. The next morning, they threw her dead body on to our courtyard. Dada had to see her lying there with his own eyes. That was the moment that he decided he was going to join the Muktibahini and go to war.
Dada and his friends started off towards India to receive training. He had a young boy from Jessore traveling with him, but on their way he got caught by the Pakistanis and was executed. A few of them managed to slip away and reach India.
After three months of training, they came back and met with other young freedom fighters and started fighting. They fought against the Pakistanis in different parts of Gopalganj. During one of these missions, Dada was shot in the leg. His friends got him medical help but he still insisted on fighting to free the Bhatiapara camp on December 18, even though he was injured. Bhatiapara was liberated on December 19, and a lot of people lost their lives in the effort to free it.
Ishrat Jahan Toma
Bhatiapara High School